Financing and policy for quality education
Straight strategies needed for education goal to become reality When the world defined its intent for a better future at the last United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, education figured prominently among the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And not by chance – Education International (EI) had tirelessly advocated for the inclusion of quality education in what is set to be the most influential policy agenda of the next 15 years. The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals is to be celebrated, but without committing the necessary means to make the education goal a reality, many of its aims will be elusive. As the education goal, SDG 4, moves towards implementation, coherent, properly financed systemic planning is essential. How this will be done is still the subject of a controversial debate involving policy makers and education activists at national and global levels. With this in mind, EI commissioned Clara Fontdevila and Toni Verger of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona to take a close look at recent World Bank publications and projects with a view to understand the World Bank’s policy on teachers. Since the World Bank is an influential player in the education policy debate as well as the largest supplier of external funding to the sector, it exerts considerable influence in shaping education policy through suggestions and requirements. This influence takes the form of recommendations on a wide range of topics, from benchmarking learning outcomes to teacher issues. In their study, The World Bank’s doublespeak on teachers – an analysis of ten years of lending and advice, Fontdevila and Verger show that “different policy documents published by the World Bank offer varying positions on the same teacher-related themes. This doublespeak undermines policy coherence by advocating simultaneously for different (and sometimes even opposing) policy options.” The study, which can be downloaded at the end of this text, provides rare, in-depth insight into the challenges to institutional coherence and consistency of teacher policy recommendations and programmes at the World Bank. The policy discourse expresses a preference for micro-management focused reforms, whereas the projects undertaken lean towards a teacher professionalism agenda, an approach which clearly is at the heart of improvement efforts in OECD countries. This conflict of ideas and action is perplexing. The rhetoric and the practice do not match. Given the impact its policies have in the sector, it is imperative that the global education community critically reflect on how the World Bank can contribute to improving education quality. To deliver on the promise of SDG 4 – to ensure inclusive and quality education for all – governments must acknowledge the diverse and challenging contexts in which teachers work, and provide sufficient means for improvement. The World Bank can play a major role in strengthening the teaching profession. However, greater coherence on financial and policy aspects will be required.
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